Label: self released Band: The Mass Origin: United States
Fun fact, the day I became a student, I was full of energy and life and the same night I went out in Eindhoven with a friend. We went to a place called The Bunker, which was sort of the student watering hole in the city to see a band that was playing in the AOR (Algemene Ontmoetingsruimte). One of those bands was The Mass. I bought a t-shirt, I wore it forever. Now they’re back with this EP.
The venue closed not much later with huge debt, which sucked. But that night, was a special one full of optimism and a sense of freedom. The Mass was an awesome band with a distinct sound, probably dipping into the post-hardcore sound but much more avant-garde at the same time. ‘Ghost Fleet’ is a return to form for the fourpiece.
The record kicks of with an instant hectic swirl of guitar blasts and shouted, frustrated vocals. The sound is hooky, unpredictable and lacking in cohesion it seems. It’s all there, but the listener is constantly challenged. ‘Threshing The Light’ makes the band feel like one of those experimental, gritty bands on the DischordRecords label. Unexpected element is the saxophone. That is even more present on the next song, where the band is really moving into jazzy terrain. “Neuronic Channels Driven to Agitation” is a funky, screaming instruments jazz jam that goes on for just long enough.
Both elements come together on the nervous ‘Don’t go whaling high’, with heavy, Meshuggesque guitar breaks and the spiralling crazy jazzspeditions by the band. It stays towards the heavy, creative side of music and the record this far is one with a punkrock grit to it. Sludge elements, grunge ferocity and a whole lot of rage to go berserk to during a live set. Still, there’s always that radically different aspect to the sound of The Mass. Think of bands that just sound different enough to be awesome, maybe even Refused.
Closing the record is a true epic track. ‘Ghost Ship’ almost clocks at 20 minutes, with repetitive, threatening grooves, pounding drums and the characteristic hooked riff work that makes this band sound so particularly cool. It’s a cool, addictive tune, like this whole record of carefully distributed sonic violence. The Mass still rocks and I’m happy to find that they’re still going strong.
This edition of Sounds of the Underground features musical gems from Winterlore, In Mourning, Release The Long Ships and Muscle And Marrow.
Some good music for lesser weather.
Winterlore – Winterlore Slaughterhouse Records
The cover of this second Winterlore record immediately speaks to the afficionado of dark fantasy/history with its gloomy depiction of a moonlit landscape. It says a lot about the sound of these Utah residents and their mystical black metal. The debut of the band came out in 2013, so it was high time for something more. With members of Ered Wethrin, Malignant Inception and many more, its clear that the band draws inspiration from various styles within the genre to create a perfectly balanced sound of their own on this record. Inspired by early Drudkh, Angantyr and Satanic Warmaster, you know what you’re in for! Back to the old underground.
Blending the right elements of oldschool black metal, this band sounds grim like you used to love them. Black, eerie guitar riffs create a static pattern that batters on forever, while the vocalist barks his dark incantations. Taking clear inspiration from their Northern predecessors, the band focusses on similar themes and cultural components. The sound is hardly full of variation, but leaves room for atmospheric guitar parts. Repetitive, droning patterns with a melancholic feel get the listener in a trance. Fascinating is the chanting on the end of the title track and in fact also the closer for the album. It’s almost Viking chanting, in a Wardruna style, which evokes powerful imagery surrounding that cover photo. Though stylisticly a bit retro, Winterlore has released an album that brings all the good from the old favorites in a fresh coat of paint.
Muscle and Marrow – Love The Flenser
It’s a peculiar thing how certain records end up in the black metal category on bandcamp, but for this album I do get it. Muscle and Marrow is an experimental duo, creating music that tugs at the heart strings. On This record the songs are trying to express the complexity of love, but not in the cheesy way we all know and hate. It’s much deeper than that. In this interview with Noisey, singer and guitarist Kira Clark talks about her influences for this record. The sound she produces with drummer Keith McGraw has been dubbed doom-folk, but if you like to call it doompop, experimental music or electronics, it’s all good.
If I have to clarify what this sounds like, I have to mention Chelsea Wolfe and (though many might disagree with me) Björk due to the free form of the music. In a way you can also not pass up on the chance to mention Courtney Love, who is a big inspiration for this album apparently and in some ways her influence can be felt in the music. The tunes feel very ambient, but the vocals are weary and expressive. It creates a feeling of darkness, almost gothy. The shimmering music and haunting vocals express an exhaustion almost, which is very convincing and giving the record a strenght that is hard to really put to words. It convinces you of truly complex feelings that drain you when even trying to comprehend them. Whispered or screamed, Clark is a vocalist with a powerful range and at the core of this record for sure. The rest is just framework. I’m struggling to write down what I hear, it reminds me of the description in ‘Lord of the Rings’ of the ringwraiths, who are stretched thin, almost ghost-like by their greed and the lifeforce eaten away by that one ring… that’s how the music of Muscle and Marrow sounds.
In Mourning – Afterglow Agonia Records
These Swedes know a thing or two about creating haunting tunes that find their way somewhwere in between goth and doom with a tinge of symphonic added. It’s no My Dying Bride, but in a sense that is not such a far shot from what these gentelmen produce on their fourth full lenght in their 16 year existence ‘Afterglow’. Maybe if you add a little Moonspell to that mix you do get the sound of In Mourning. The band from Falun has started moving in a more melodic death direction for a while now, which can be heard on their new album as well. With two original members in their, the core sound of contemplative and intelligent music with a classic hint is obviously maintained on this new outing. I enjoyed listening to this.
The band is hugely melodic, full of majestic arches that depict an autumn landscape of ever dying life. The tracks are notably long and not always leaving the impact you’d be hoping for, but on a track like ‘Ashen Crown’ the band is unleashed. A torrent of minor tunes is launched at the listener, conveying grief and torment in an intricate and beautiful manner. The riffing is pulling at you with grand, sweeping movements and a wide array of tones and layers. I can’t say that the vocals are all that convincing and distinct on every track, but the right approach is taken everywhere with grunts or clean contemplative vocals. It’s the guitars that take the reigns on the tunes with a fierce bit of bass and drums (in the capable hands of
Daniel Liljekvist, former drummer of Katatonia). The song sink down and then rise up again, higher and higher. Sometimes it’s just swooning and subtle, like the intro of the wonderful ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’. Though In Mourning is not giving the gothic doom the kick in the arse it so sorely needs, it’s bringing out all those elements that make it such a beloved genre.
Release The Long Ships – Holocene Self released
What draw my attention to this record in the first place was partly the bandname, Release The Long Ships, which reminded me of that stupid Unleashed song. The band is in fact Ferenc Kapiller, a one man musical wonder of multi-instrumental prowess and a knack for the mysterious. Perhaps known for his artwork for post-BM band Nullingroots from the United States, the Hungarian has released a wonderful record with ‘Holocene’. The musician set to work with nothing more than a guitar and a computer back in 2011 and has wrought some brilliant stuff this far. At home in Szombathel he creates simple but imaginative songs and I truly adore them.
Another point of interest for me was a song titled ‘Tesla and Tunguska’. I had heard a song earlier with Tunguska in the title by the T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society. The melancholy and the wide stretched feel of the sound feel similar. The mysterious Tunguska-event, an explosion thought to have been a meteor, has been linked to Tesla by obscure theories. It’s a reworking of an Erudite Stoner song. Kapiller translates this to minimalistic music, with a lot of background distortion and noise on moments when it needs to swell to bigger proportions. The trickling guitar sound is a prevailing element on this album, evoking imagery of fantasy landscapes and deep forests. The kind you don’t see anywhere anymore, but maybe in Hungary a part lingers. The music is layered and laced with emotion, this is not something to listen to anywhere else than at home or on a walk in nature. It has a taste of ambient, the flow of postrock and the organic vibe of folk. It really is worth your time.
It is always good to do something on your friday night. This friday I went to the Temporary Art Centre in Eindhoven for the fourth label night of Barreuh Records. A label that has found a spot somewhere on the line where art and music touch and get intertwined.
The label aims to release affordable and special products of music that is challenging and experimental. This is available on their quite intriguing label nights, usualy filled with strange happenings. Strange tunes are played in between and a small, but interested crowd gathers for this live experience.
There’s also the release tonight of the new Skymme record, that you can enjoy on bandcamp as well.
First up is the experimental electronics of Rumatov. Three guys molding a mixture of ambient sounds and blipping noise on a range of devices. This creates soundscapes that drone on for the length of the set. The trio manages to put a bit of humor in their preformance of intriguing sounds, that challenge the notiono of what music is.
Danielle Liebeskind is next up, playing a mixture of free-jazz postpunk jams, that frame the poetry of their singer. The explosive music offers a big contrast witht he stammered, flat spoken poetry lines that get spoken into the microphone in between. Though this is an interesting approach, it offers little in the way of harmony between the two elements and the poetry does not really appeal to me. Luckily there’s room for some respite in the cool venue, with some expositions open for visiting.
Final act of the night is Thaumaturgist, offering some bass driven beats. The music sounds old school, without the polished synthy stuff that you’re used to these days. Energetic and raw, the act captivates the audience in what seems to be a long, groovy jam.